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For People Allergic to Salicylic Acid

By Cynthia Bailey MD.

For people allergic to salicylic acid there are many other powerful treatment products that work well to fight acne.

best acne treatment without salicylic acid

No one likes facial acne. But, unfortunately, it is a common skin problem. Facial acne vulgaris - the most common type of acne - is seen as pimples, cysts, and blackheads. Often, the acne begins in the classic T-zone area of your face, but it eventually spreads to your entire face.

Salicylic acid is an effective acne treatment because it penetrates well into oily pores to help unclog blockages to treat blackheads. These blockages also prevent other medicines from getting into pores to treat acne. But if you are allergic to this acne fighter, you still have options. Your ingredient options include:

Bet the best results when you use a number of these options together; mix and match to fix your acne outbreaks. Banish your facial acne - even with a salicylic acid allergy - using my four-step acne treatment outlined below. 

My simple, four-step acne treatment for people allergic to salicylic acid uses 4 steps to keep your skin healthy and able to resist dryness while you treat your acne. I call this Complete Skin Care.

Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine to Treat Acne Without Salicylic Acid

Treatment includes layering products for the 4 essential steps of:


These 4 steps are usually done in this order - clear up your acne even without salicylic acid! 


Best cleansers for acne without salicylic acid

Thoroughly wash your face once or twice a day and begin to treat your acne using my Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser, my Glycolic Acid Cleanser. or Calming Zinc Bar Soap which helps to fight 'fungal acne' (Pityrosporum folliculitis). 

best glycolic acid face cleanser for acne

Consider a combination treatment using the benzoyl peroxide products at night and Glycolic Acid Cleanser or Calming Zinc during the day. You can improve the success of your treatment by using either an Exfoliating Facial Sponge or Clarisonic Skin Cleansing Brush when cleaning your face.


Best products to treat acne without salicylic acid

Once your face is clean of oil, dirt, debris, and product residue your skin can maximally absorb additional acne treating ingredients.

My top choice routine uses Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy applied right after washing and toweling dry skin. Green tea topical products have been shown to decrease sebum and help combat acne. They also fight irritation and dryness, making them ideal for sensitive skin.


Top your green tea with additional correcting products to treat your acne and blackheads. Options include benzoyl peroxide, which is the best way to control the acne causing germ called C. acnes. It also helps breakup blackheads. The 2.5% benzoyl peroxide concentration kills C. acnes as well as higher concentrations yet it is less likely to irritate skin. My 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion is a great choice since it is also alcohol free. 


best glycolic acid cream for acne scarring

Glycolic acid exfoliates to fight blackheads and brighten your complexion. It can stimulate collagen renewal to soften acne scars too. My Glycolic Acid Face Cream is oil free and also doubles as the product for your next step, which is HYDRATE.


Use more than one ingredient to cover more of the driving forces that lead to acne. If you used a skin cleanser with one of these ingredients then pick the other to apply next.

The other important ingredient in the fight against acne is a retinoid. Retinol is a great choice. Use retinol at night after washing. My Retinol Night Cream has green tea in it. Apply it right after washing your face. 

Green tea alone can benefit complexions prone to acne by reducing sebum production and helping to suppress acne lesions and inflammation. I often recommend applying Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy to skin immediately after washing and applying all other acne fighting products on top. 

best antioxidant skin care product for acne

 Step Three: HYDRATE

Best moisturizers for acne

After cleansing your face and treating your acne, apply Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin to places on your face that need a little more hydration. This ultra-light cream is oil free, will not clog pores and hydrates with state-of-the-art ingredients. If you have used the Glycolic Acid Face Cream then you don't need a moisturizer because the oil free cream base is an excellent moisturizer. 

best moisturizer for acne
Step Four: PROTECT
Best sunscreens for acne
After you complete the previous steps, be sure to protect your skin with daily sun protection. Sunscreen can prevent hyperpigmentation of acne scars and improve your overall anti-aging facial skin health. To best protect acne-prone skin, I recommend mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. The most popular products for my acne prone patients include Sheer Strength Pure Mineral Sunscreens. They provide broad spectrum SPF 50+ protection using pure invisible zinc oxide, which is non-irritating. These sunscreens are oil-free, never feel greasy and look and feel great on your skin. Chose from my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Spray Sunscreen (which works really well on hairy facial skin), Invisible Creme Sunscreen or my Matte Tinted Sunscreen (which contains 4% iron oxide to help prevent pigment problems such as melasma too).
Start Your Acne Regimen Today Don't let your facial acne control your life. Start your proper treatment today. 
  1. Suzana Saric, Manisha Notay, and Raja K. Sivamani, Green Tea and Other Tea Polyphenols: Effects on Sebum Production and Acne Vulgaris, Antioxidants, (Basel). 2017 March; 6(1): 2.Published online 2016 December 29. doi: 10.3390/antiox6010002 PMCID: PMC5384166
  2. Elsaie ML, Abdelhamid MF, Elsaaiee LT, Emam HM. The efficacy of topical 2% green tea lotion in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. 2009 Apr;8(4):358-64.